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1 month with Final Cut Pro – my thoughts…

It was a long time coming but I made the switch – but was it worth it?

Final Cut Pro running on MacBook Air

Final Cut Pro and Mac – they go together like peanut butter & jelly right?

It was that simple notion above all others that kept nagging away at me and got me thinking about switching from editing videos in Premiere Pro to Final Cut. It’s an odd one though as Premiere is working fine and I’ve had no issues with it whatsoever.

They say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and yet here was me about to swap from an app that was working just fine and jump into the unknown.

For someone like me who is all about facts and black & white, the thought of making the change to Final Cut was pretty woolly and I know I was being influenced – which also irritated me!

I almost felt a need to try Final Cut because I run an Apple-based YouTube channel and write here about Apple News – it seemed a natural move to make. Virtually all the creators I talk to use it and I wondered what I missing out on. Could everybody be wrong and I was right? Was Final Cut Pro really that much better? Surely in essence they both do the same thing right – chop up video and spew out the finished article at the other end…

Final Cut Pro – making the jump

It’s pretty fair to say that news and releases on Apple Avenue are thin on the ground at the moment, so if I were going to try it out, then this would be about as good a time as there would be.

Part of the delay in switching was the fear of downtime. After three years and many, many hours of using Premiere Pro I’m pretty fast in it. I know the layout and the shortcuts. I know how to fix things if they go wrong and I can make content – both long-form and short-form videos quickly.

I feared that making the change in editors would cause me too much stress and too much wasted time – but as it turns out, I was wrong on that count. Sure, I did my normal thing of immersing myself in tutorials on YouTube to get me going and spoke to a mate a bit too – but with just a little knowledge I was able to get going without too much stress.

One word of advice I would offer though – if you are trying to learn Final Cut Pro or anything come to that, find one creator you like and get on with and stick with him or her. I promise if you start to take on too many videos, views and opinions you’ll end up more confused and worse off – take it from me!

Different strokes

I mentioned a little while ago that in essence, Premiere & Final Cut perform much the same task – and they do, but the way they go about it differs.

File management is kinda critical with FCP – far more so than with Premiere. Luckily my file management has always been pretty good and this helped a lot when it came to editing in Final Cut.

You need a folder on your desktop before you even think about firing up FCP. In that folder have some sub-folders. In my folder, I have these:

  • video
  • audio
  • export
  • a-roll
  • b-roll
  • logo

With that folder ready, now you can open FCP. I’d come from a background of Premiere asking you to start a project as the first part of the creative process – and that’s the first major change.

With Final Cut, you first start a ‘Library’ and give it a name – typically the same as the project. With the library created and saved to that source folder on your desktop, you can then start to add content, and this is where those sub-folders will come in handy.

All you need to do is drag those folders onto to date line that will have been created in your FCP project window and your assets are there ready to start creating your project – which is the next stage. As yet there will be no timeline that you can drop the assets onto. So, create a project, name it and now you’ll have a timeline. Simply press ‘E’ and your footage will appear in the timeline.

A couple of things – Final Cut Pro is all about the shortcuts which I am only just starting to learn and the initial faffing about you have to go through to get to the starting point of editing is something you get used to pretty quickly.

And – before you get going, highlight the project then go over to Library Properties and then Modify the storage locations for Media, Cache & Backups. Change the location for all those to the local folder on your desktop – particularly the cache folder. This grows very quickly in my experience. For my latest project, for example, the cache folder ended up at over 80 GB!

Oh – lastly, if you are working on an older Mac or a less powerful Apple silicon Mac and you find things are stuttering a bit try going to FCP > Settings> Playback and untick background render. By default it’s on and it will slow things down if your Mac isn’t up to it.

Pros and cons

As with everything there is good and bad with both editors.

One thing that has surprised me though is that I didn’t lose as much time as I thought I would in re-training – or at least getting going. This week’s video was the third I’ve fully edited in Final Cut on M1 Max MacBook Pro and the more I use it the more I am starting to enjoy it.

The UI is, if anything more intuitive than Premiere – everything seems to be where you think it should be. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily any quicker than Premiere but it does seem snappier.

I record my audio separately from my video so one of the first things I always have to do in an edit is sync those two up. Whereas in Premiere I have to sync the two files in the timeline, with Final Cut you do that in the project window before bringing it down. It means you are only working with one file in the timeline – it’s a neater way of working.

Multicam clips are dealt with much better in FCP too – again you sync them before dropping them to the timeline. Again you’ll only have one file to deal with – which initially confused me – but there’s a shortcut (of course) that will flick between the two camera angles. That shortcut is command>shift>left or right arrow.

Colouring

It’s possible that if you are super talented and experienced Premiere may offer higher-end colouring tools, but those found in Final Cut Pro are easier to use and achieve decent results with.

I found that two scopes helped me greatly when colouring. Press command>7 and then choose the dual mode and look out the Vectorscope and RGB overlay scopes. There are videos online explaining how best to use them – but it’s honestly pretty easy to get good colour results. Using these will also help achieve a good white balance. When colouring I used the colour wheels which are easier to use than Premiere’s and it didn’t take long until I began delving into colour curves and Hue/Saturation curves as well.

That’s what I meant about the UI – it makes a lot of sense. Of course, it helped bringing some previous editing knowledge to the table but even so, I’ve been amazed at how easy it is to pick up the basics of FCP.

One of the imports was from my iPhone 15 Pro Max which I shot in log. Last week it confused me that although the footage was shot log and was thus totally flat and de-saturated, in the timeline it showed up colour-corrected back to REC 709.

It turns out that FCP will automatically correct log footage from an iPhone. That’s all well and good but the downside is you are then more limited on the corrections you can make. A better fix is to turn that off in the extended view of the info tab to the right of your screen and then apply your own.

Go to the Effects menu (bottom left) and look for colour. Then drag over the custom LUT. Now with the log footage highlighted you can go to the movie tab and under custom LUT add your favourite correction LUT with total control via the colour wheels. I found that having the colour wheels above the LUT makes a massive difference as well.

Sound

Without a doubt, Premiere Pro wins hands down in its audio side.

The Essential Sound panel has everything you need to get great audio results. One obvious flaw in Final Cut Pro is that you can’t set (so far as I’ve been able to find) the audio to the correct audio standard for video which is -23 LUFS. In Premiere it’s right there in front of you.

I mentioned I recorded my audio independently so by habit I still first take it into Audition and treat it there and set it to -23 LUFs and then bring that file into FCP. In an ideal world, I should be able to do that all in Final Cut – maybe it is there and I’ve just not found it yet. One win for FCP is the Voice Isolation tool – don’t use it too much though, but it’s a great tool.

Also, SRT files are something that natively doesn’t seem to be part of Final Cut. An SRT file allows you to import subtitles when you’re uploading to YouTube. It is so easy in Premiere. I’ve heard there may be plugins available to buy that will get you SRT files in FCP – but it’s an added unneeded cost.

Another omission is that there are no adjustment layers in FCP – you have to find one and import it yourself. I’ve done that now – but again it seems a lot of hassle for something that should be so easy.

Final thoughts

The magnetic timeline is nowhere near as hard to get used to as I thought it would be – that came to me ever so easily.

It’s a neater and easier timeline to navigate and gets less messy as you’re dealing with fewer physical lines of footage. After the initial multi-cam and audio sync you are dealing with just one timeline – with the audio attached.

Plugins are what make an editor though – it’s those that give your projects that polished look. Everyone raved about MotionVFX – and now I can see why. Not only do they have a fantastic range of packs available to buy, but they automatically install. I have never come across plugins that are so easy to install and use.

Overall, I can see why so many creators use Final Cut Pro. If I’ve been able to get used to it this quickly and produce professional-looking videos without missing a beat, I think that speaks volumes for how intuitive it is. It’s just more fun to use – that’s the carry-away that I’ve found.

Sure it means that Apple will be getting another £300 out of me after my 90-day free trial period is over, but by that time I should be flying – shortcuts n’all and I’m pretty sure I won’t be turning back. I wrote about my first thoughts on FCP a few weeks back and the more I use it the more I like it.

Give Final Cut Pro a go – if it’s been on your mind but you’ve kept holding back, wait no longer. I promise you there is nothing to be afraid of…

If you have started to use Final Cut Pro or already do and want to add some quality plugins to your collection MotionVFX has kindly given me an affiliate link. If you buy through this link you’ll be helping support my efforts as a writer and creator.

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